I became a vegetarian at the age of 15 after visiting a piggery, where I saw sows that were unable to turn around in their cages. When I was 17, I began taking part in animal rights activities and also discarded eggs and dairy products from my diet: I became a vegan.
The idea of Saparomäki began taking shape over ten years ago when I visited a sanctuary for farm animals in England. I, too, wanted to do something concrete to help animals. But first, I had to complete my degree, then work and save some money. Life threw all kinds of things in my path.
In 2011, I was afforded the opportunity to study animal care. I had written my master’s thesis on the species-specific behaviour of chickens and legislation related to animal protection, as well as read a lot about the conditions in which farm animals were kept and about the common behaviours of farm animals. I still wanted to learn more about animals in practice, before establishing the sanctuary.
So, I went on to study animal care. The very first day, as I stepped out of a barn I felt the need to pick up a pen and paper, to put what I’d seen and experienced into words. I wrote about dairy farms, piggeries, chicken farms – both broiler and layer – and a sheep farm, and the inhabitants at all of these. That text evolved into the book named Salainen päiväkirja eläintiloilta (”A Secret Diary from Animal Farms”) that went into its second printing only a week after its publication. It proved that people really were interested in animal rights and the conditions in animal production.
The fact is that even now, 20 years after I became a vegetarian, sows are still kept in cages for almost half the year. Furthermore, little piglets are mutilated without anaesthesia, cows are unable to move for months and broiler chickens still suffer from diseases brought about by breeding. Animals lack intrinsic value.
At the sanctuary, the value of animals will not be measured by how much milk they produce, how fast their muscles grow or how many eggs they lay. At the sanctuary, an animal will be allowed to be exactly what it is: an individual, which is valued as such for its unique personality.
At the sanctuary, people will be able to get to know other animals in their own environment. No animal – human beings included – behaves normally in cramped and confined conditions. Chickens will peck each other’s feathers, pigs will chew each other’s tails. At the sanctuary the true personalities of all animals have room to slowly blossom, and their characters will become evident.
In addition to studying animal care, I travelled around Europe visiting various animal sanctuaries and their inhabitants. I have read more on animal behaviour and studied things like how to feed animals properly and ensure they do not grow so fast that their joints break.
Now, it is time to find a suitable farm and establish the sanctuary. To make my great dream a reality, so that someday sows can move around freely again and chickens have soil to scrape.
The founder of Saparomäki